WASHINGTON (JTA) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a Christmas message on a British television station that Jesus would be on his side.
"If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers," said Ahmadinejad in the message, according to Agence France Presse. "If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over."
The Iranian president’s message, delivered in Farsi, was part of Channel Four’s annual alternative Christmas broadcast, which has included guests such as Jesse Jackson and Marge Simpson in past years and is seen as a counterpoint to Queen Elizabeth II’s traditional holiday message.
Israel’s ambassador to London called Channel Four’s airing of the Ahmadinejad speech "a scandal and a national embarrassment," and the British Foreign Office also condemned the broadcast, according to AFP.
"The British media are rightly free to make their own editorial choices, but this invitation will cause offence and bemusement not just at home but amongst friendly countries abroad," said a Foreign Office spokeswoman.
Explaining the decision to invite Ahmadinejad to speak, Channel Four’s head of news and current affairs Dorothy Byrne said: "As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad’s views are enormously influential."
"As we approach a critical time in international relations," she added, "we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."